More Two-Sitting Readsby Beth Carswell
Last month, we told you about the books AbeBooks staff found so riveting and engrossing that we just couldn't put them down, and read them in one or two sittings, often to the detriment and minor neglect of our responsibilities and loved ones. We asked our readers to let us know if we'd missed any essential books from our list - and boy, did you!
We received hundreds of responses, including many multiple mentions of certain books (I must reassure at least 10 of you that I did intend to include Yann Martel's Life of Pi on the first list - it was an honest oversight!), from people all over the world, letting us know which books they found engrossing enough to be glued to. The runner-up for most mentioned was easily Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth, which I should clearly look into. The response was so great that we deemed it worthy of a second installment.
So, without further ado, here are some of the books you couldn't put down.
The Readers Have Their Say:
- I am 96 years old and have read millions of books. I had trouble remembering a special book that mesmerizing. I just did. It is Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham, which I read in 1936, when I was 23 years old. I literally stayed up all night!
- Just wanted to let you know about another spellbound book that I couldn't put down: Wounds of Honour (Volume 1: Empire) by Anthony Riches. I read a lot of historical (action) fiction, such as Patrick O'Brian, Bernard Cornwell and similar styles. But this one had me riveted right from page 1 - it just rattles along and I for one could relate to the characters.
In one or two places - the coincidences become a little "stretched", but it still works for me.
Definitely worth staying up till 2am to finish and I can't wait for the sequel.
- My sister just sent me this list of "Books you can't put down". I was happy to agree with so many of your choices - books I have read already, ones I am waiting to read, and new ones to add to my summer reading list. But please add another: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. What a wonderful book from start to finish. It had such great, descriptive writing; a little like A Thousand Splendid Suns, which I must say I thought better than The Kite Runner.
- Thanks a lot for your idea of the read-read-read books; I'll probably order all of them I haven't yet read. These books are a selection as they came to my mind from a lifetime of being a print addict, but here they are, my un-put-downable reads:
Lord of the Rings. It took me two or three tries to get into it, but then I did without sleep and food until I'd finished reading the trilogy! I've since reread it several times, and every time the magic of Tolkien's imagination carries me off again.
Ursula K. LeGuin A Wizard of Earthsea trilogy
The Rats of Nimh
Lassie Come Home
The Wind in the Willows
Dean Koontz's 'Odd' trilogy: Odd Thomas, Forever Odd and Brother Odd
Peter O'Toole's marvelous biography, Loitering with Intent
Loved your article! I found several titles from your list that are now 'must- reads'. Please add to your list two of my favs: The Little Book by Selden Edwards, and Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng - my husband and children literally clapped their hands when I finished that one, as it now meant they would get to eat something other than cold cereal. I just could not put it down. Thanks again!
I just finished The Bread of Angels by Stephanie Saldana, a memoir I couldn't stop reading until the last page. It's about a Fulbright Scholar, who spent a year in Damascus in 2004-2005; Ms. Saldana makes the ordinary people in Damascus come alive. They turn out to be wise, touching, loving and winsome. You want Ms. Saldana to stay with them. Now I long to see Damascus.
Recently you published a list of books readers said kept them up at night, away from work and other important things. Some classics were listed but the best of all, The Brothers Karamazov, was missed! While my wife was away for two weeks on a cruise with her mother, I devoured this book (finally), reading hours per day (I'm slow) and finished it finally before they returned. It's probably the greatest novel ever written, but no argument needs to be made for such an opinion: everyone has a different one to nominate. I'll read them all!
The book I couldn’t put down was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Rarely does a book appear that makes the reader care so much about the characters and have a storyline that is so compelling. Loved it!
-Sue, United Kingdom
For me, Nevil Shute's books have always been 'unputdownable.' My favorites being Trustee from the Toolroom, The Chequer Board, In the Wet, A Town Like Alice and The Pied Piper. I even have a non-fiction book which falls into the same category - Not Much of an Engineer by Sir Stanley Hooker. I honestly think that if I had read this book when I was much younger (although it hadn't been written then) my life would have taken a different path!
How about Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts? I think this one qualifies...and cheers - Love the topic!
You left out the folowing one-sitters: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne, and by the same author, The House of Special Purpose, The Thief of Time and Mutiny on the Bounty. All of these were unput-downable. In whodunnits, you left out The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid, a book which grabbed you and didn't let go, despite scaring the living daylights out of you, you had to find out what happened, and how, and why, and who came off worst of the worst in the end. Her most brilliant book.
These two books kept me awake, and still haunt my dreams. First, Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis: a time traveler & medieval scholar mistakenly lands in England as the Black Death begins to grip the countryside. Absolutely claustrophobic atmosphere, but emotionally unflinching. The historical events of the 14th century come alive. Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban: the rediscovery of gunpowder 1,000 years after a nuclear war has blown the human race back into the Stone Age. A devastating work of the imagination. It was very difficult to understand at first, until I began to read it aloud to myself. Suddenly the language made sense. As Anthony Burgess said of this book, it captures you and won't let you go.
Great article on books that you gulp down in a couple of sittings. When I was 12, I read (and read and read) Gone With The Wind for the first time (of many readings) in the summer. I couldn't stop reading it, even though it took longer than two sittings. When I was 15, my friend loaned me her copy of Forever Amber, and I simply couldn't put it down. We both loved it, talked about it, and reread it until it fell apart. More recently, Something Missing by Matthew Dicks has been read in one sitting and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society in the car, driving back from Bucyrus, Ohio to Dover, Delaware. As I write this, I am remembering many others. The first time I read Little Women in 5th grade and Celia Garth (by Gwen Bristow) in the 6th grade were other "I can't stop reading this!" books. Thank you for such a good topic and memory-jogger.
Thanks for the list of 25 two-sitting reads. It includes a handful of books I haven't yet read, and I'll be adding them to my reading list. One title I would add to the list is Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose. This is a fascinating tale of the American West that brings to mind the adventure writing of Joseph Conrad. At the same time it is a touching story of a married couple dealing with the challenges, occasional triumphs, and frequent frustrations as they make their way together on the frontier as told by a modern-day descendant. It is among my top five all time favorites.
-Bruce, New Hampshire
- I agree with the majority of your list but felt you could have added The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde and I know you have included Pride and Prejudice but Persuasion could stand on its own. My last contribution would be Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Keep up the good work. I love your newsletters.
- I thought Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay was a great book. I couldn't put it down.
- A number of years ago, I decided I had to read someting by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and so I bought a novella he wrote. Wouldn't be a big investment if I didn't like it. One evening I opened it just to see what his writing was like, and that was it. I sat spellbound until I finished it. It was Chronicle of a Death Foretold. I've had similar experiences with longer works. Two that spring to mind are the first two volumes in Rick Atkinson's projected three-volume history of the US Army in WW2, An Army at Dawn and The Day of Battle.
- My choice would be The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Like Asimov's Foundation, it takes you to another world altogether and keeps you spellbound. It's a long book, but I spent every spare minute of my very busy life at the time devouring it and literally held my eyelids open with my fingers to finish the last chapter at some ungodly hour of the night.
- In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden – typically I pick it up mid evening meaning just to start it, yawn through the first chapter or two (I find it quite slow starting) and then all of a sudden it's half past four in the morning and I’m weeping (gets me every time) as I continue to devour it. Who cares about work the next day? Some books are worth going without sleep for!
- Holy Cow (An Indian Adventure) by Sarah MacDonald. Recommended to me by an Indian who felt Americans might get the wrong idea about his country from the movie Slumdog Millionaire. We had chatted about his country after he correctly helped me with a computer problem. I had a hard time finding it, but when I did, I found it to be a fascinating look at the impact of history, religion, environment, commercialism, and almost any other subject imaginable. In fact, I've started writing in the margins - a previous "no-no" for me, in the hope that I can find a particular section to further investigate. This story is from an Aussie, so it was a no-holds-barred on Americans, which I like. In all, it answers some questions, tempts further with information, and finds a charming way to look at India.
- Hi there,
the book you've missed from the Can't-Put-Down list is The Cuckoo's Egg by Clifford Stoll. Obviously, your reviewers have not read it. That is the ONLY REASON that could explain the omission.
- I read two or so novels a week (for the last 40+ years). Only one book have I read cover to cover without coming back to the here and now - A Stone For Danny Fisher - from 6pm. to 4am. in an army barracks in Kansas in 1969. No potty breaks, no stretch breaks and no knowledge of what was going on around me - I have never forgotten that book. And never seen it since.
- The page-turner list is a great idea, but distressingly shy on great reads from the past. I spent many many years being yelled at by my mother to get my nose out of the book and go get some exercise, which I ignored of course as I worked my way through a list of the world’s best 100 novels of all time (which at the time ended about 1950). And many years since then have been spent zombying through my daily business because my consciousness is stuck in some other place and time. For example:
The Count of Monte Cristo, Dumas;
The Red and the Black and The Charterhouse of Parma, Stendhal. And there are some recent ones of course--a sample: Shogun, Clavell; Sacred Games, Vikram Chandra; 100 Years of Solitude, Garcia Marquez; Rebecca, du Maurier; and Rain of Gold, Villasenor. The best ones take you to a completely different world than the one you are in on a daily basis.
- The Long Journey Home by Michael Gilbert. This one hooked me on Gilbert and led me to acquire all of his fiction and mourn his recent passing.
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...And still more:
A Gift of Stones
A River Runs Through It
Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage
Stephen King & Peter Straub
The Haunting of Hill House
The Crimson Petal and the White
Three Cups of Tea
The Remains of the Day
The Ice Storm
A Confederacy of Dunces
John Kennedy Toole
The Edible Woman
The Elegance of the Hedgehog